Test Tubes

Submitted into Contest #8 in response to: Write a story about an adventure in space. ... view prompt

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Science Fiction

My eyes open, and all at once, I'm awake. I blink a few times. The LED bulbs are bright, but the vast darkness outside seems to suck in the light and not give any of it back.

I stand up, going to sit by the window. Outside is blackness and a scattering of stars. Far off, I can see the cold blue of Earth. Home.

The words wake a distant memory in my head - hugs and snow and evenings by the fire. A woman whispering goodnight before kissing me on the forehead lightly and closing the door.

But all that is gone now, and there's no use dwelling on it. I tear myself back to the present, glancing over at Ri, who's sleeping on the floor near the other window. The one facing her home. Even light years away, she says she can feel its pull.

Unlike me, Ri grew up on her home planet, a world called Maluma. She experienced the culture, the love, the flaws of the life there, before it all got wrenched away.

I can't decide if it's better or worse that she got a life before this.

Absentmindedly, I rub my left arm. The countless injections have left bruises that itch and ache from time to time. I wonder when the scientists will come to take more. There's a clock on the wall, but the glowing nunbers won't help. The scientists come irregularly so that we aren't prepared for them, so we haven't thought up some kind of escape plan. And even if we had, time has become irrelevant.

We sleep when we're tired, eat when we're hungry (we get food every six hours, but the deliverers are highly specialized AIs in weaponized robot bodies, so there's no point in fighting them), and we spend the rest of our time talking, or braiding each other's hair, an activity I always thought was girlish and stupid.

But Ri says it reminds her of home, so who am I to judge?

I hear her yawn and look over. Ri rubs her eyes tiredly, before turning to the window, staring towards her galaxy. Towards her home.

Her eyes are huge, and as blue as the sky on Earth. When she looks out into space, they reflect the stars.

I hear her murmur something.

"Ri?" I say softly, going over to her.

She smiles up at me, gently, sadly.

"Are you okay?" I ask, hesitantly putting an arm around her. Her pale blue hair drifts around the spaceship. At first I thought it was a result of the low gravity. Now I realize that's just how her hair is.

When Ri finally speaks, she speaks low and soft and bitter.

"Do you know what the saddest part of all this?" she says in her heavily accented voice. She speaks English, but barely. "They think it's justified. They think they're right in doing this."

I trace circles on her back, trying to calm her, but say nothing.

"They think that because they're in charge, it doesn't matter who they hurt! They say that it's all for the greater good."

Although we're the same age, it sometimes feels as though Ri is a child, a child who has grown up too fast, seen too much. Tiny and vulnerable and scared.

I brush a stray hair out of her face, and smile in what I hope is a reassuring way.

"It's going to be all right. It's all going to work out," I say.

She shakes her head and doesn't answer.


***


They come in quickly, wearing lab coats and carrying weapons. I recognize the lead scientist immediately, even though they're all wearing traditional masks.

I stand up hastily, extending a bare arm. Ri follows suit, but not as quickly.

I wince as they plunge the needle into my arm, even though they've done it a thousand times before. Ri does't make a sound. She never does, when the scientists are here.

A thousand years ago, the scientists really were fighting for the greater good. The team of elite, kind, brilliant scientists that really believed they could do this is long gone, replaced by these frauds.

As they place my blood into their vials, I call them names under my breath.

Thief, murderer, liar.

All the things they labeled me in order to take me away, to this hidden laboratory this hidden prison. And for what? For what?

Suddenly, I understand Ri's bitter anger, her saddness, her rage.

I have no idea what I'm doing or why I'm doing it as I draw back my arm and punch the lead scientist in the jaw. He doesn't make a sound as he topples to the floor.

I swing around to face the scientists. I have no idea how to fight, but neither do they. One of them is so busy trying to figure out how to point his weapon at me that he doesn't even notice me until he's on the ground.

I let out a scream of rage and pent up aggression.

Suddenly, Ri is behind me, her hands covering my eyes. They're cool and gentle, and I immediately feel calm.

I let out a deep breath and look towards the scientists, fearing what's about to happen.

But instead of killing me, of throwing me out into space to die, they start to laugh. One of them is already the ones I took down to thier feet.

"Well, that went well," the lead scientist says, wincing and rubbing his jaw and going to check on the one who was bearing a weapon. "Maybe even too well."

Ri gives me a regretful look, sad, but also saying "I'm sorry, but I didn't have a choice."

I watch as the lead scientist takes Ri . . .

. . . and pulls her into a hug!

And Ri lets him.

Too late I understand as they lead her out of the ship. Too late I understand as they take her from me. I remember the gentleness of her hands on mine, skin to skin. Calming me before I could cause any serious damage.

She turns and looks at me, mouthing, "I'm sorry" before turning and walking away.

September 23, 2019 01:19

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1 comment

Creed .
18:21 Jan 13, 2021

I'm slightly confused by this story. Is the main character a girl? Other than a few confusing elements, I love this story. Do you plan to write a whole book out of it?

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